“The Australian Federation of Medical Women (AFMW) wishes to address our failure as a civil society to respond to the real healthcare needs of survivors of sexual violence in order to alleviate the impact of abuse when it has already occurred. Our Government and medical responses need to be holistic, just and supportive of survivors over their lifetime.”
The AFMW along with the Victorian Medical Women’s Society and the Australian Women’s Coalition together put together a report in 2010 calling for an improved model of medical care for survivors of sexual violence. “Happy, Healthy Women, Not Just Survivors” is the result of a consultation process that looks closely at what we know about violence against women in Australia – 1 in 3 women victimised, the leading contributor to death, disability and illness in women aged 15-44 – and argues persuasively for the need for a long-term, holistic model of care for survivors of violence.
The report reveals that, unsurprisingly, the medical needs of survivors go well beyond crisis care and that, currently, there is a gap in the system when it comes to the provision of long-term, holistic care that is sensitive to the nature of trauma and the needs of victim/survivors. In putting forward their vision of how to address this gap, the report calls for a series of measures including:
- cultural change that will propel a change in attitudes and behaviours and create an awareness of the consequences of sexual violence and the subsequent needs of victim/survivors
- improved training of medical health professionals in the nature and consequences of trauma and how to respond sensitively and effectively
- improved coordination across services and better linking between services
- prioritise access to and provision of holistic, integrated, affordable healthcare models which address both physical and psychological needs and include an emphasis on wellbeing
- a national database for survivors providing easy access to important and pertinent information and resources for their health
- establish a Centre of Excellence to drive these recommendations and establish best-practice care for victim/survivors of violence
To read the full set of recommendations, you can download the report here.
Ending violence against women and sexual violence can not involve a sole focus on prevention. We must be ready and willing as a society, as a community, to offer the support and care that those who have already been victimised require. Happy, Healthy Women, Not Just Survivors offers us a vision of precisely that response: not just a dedicated, responsive and effective model of care but a whole-hearted undertaking to support healing from the impacts of violence.